In our modern society, one would hope and maybe assume that nursing homes have the ability to properly care for and protect our elders and prevent incidents that result in tremendous harm to our most vulnerable population. Disturbingly, even in 2016, nursing home abuse and neglect appears to be on the rise. While it is true that nursing homes have the capability to provide top quality care, the will or desire to do so seems lacking. Why? In order to properly care for each and every resident they acquire, the nursing home corporation must employ sufficient staffing to meet each individual’s needs; and this costs money and reduces overall profits. Unfortunately, many of the largest nursing home chains operate by placing corporate profits at a higher priority and above the residents’ safety, health, protection and well-being. What does nursing home abuse and neglect look like? As an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer, I can tell you that over the past twenty years in practice, I have seen nursing home abuse and neglect take many forms, including:
Bed sores and Pressure Ulcers and Pressure Injuries
Pressure sores, bed sores, etc., now medically referred to as “pressure injuries,” are usually preventable with proper care. These wounds tend to develop on the body’s pressure points — the sacrum, coccyx area, heels, elbows and hips. They result from poor care when a resident is not frequently turned and repositioned and is permitted to remain in a single position for an extended period of time in a bed or in a wheelchair. These wounds can become infected and can lead to sepsis and death, especially if they are located near the tail-bone of a resident who is incontinent of bowel or bladder. If you discover that a loved one has suffered a “bed sore,” “pressure sore,” “pressure ulcer” or some other wound, there is reasonable cause to suspect nursing home abuse and neglect as the primary cause of injury. Pressure injuries are one of the most painful forms of nursing home abuse inflicted on the elderly.
Malnutrition / Dehydration
Nursing homes frequently fail to provide adequate nutrition and hydration to their residents. These failures may encourage pressure injury wound development, delay healing and recovery from surgery, and lead to a whole host of other problems and an overall decline in the patient’s health. How can a person literally starve to death in a nursing home in twenty-first century America? Elderly individuals and people recovering from surgery often need assistance with eating and ensuring that they receive enough to drink. Nursing homes do not typically employ enough staff to adequately provide this assistance. Again, it’s a matter of placing profits over people. It may surprise some to learn that while a resident may be charged $250.00 to $700.00 or more per day through Medicare to reside in the nursing home, the nursing home corporation spends only about $5.00 of those funds each day to feed each resident – and sometimes less. Yes — That $5.00 per day spent by the nursing home to feed your loved one covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and all beverages. If you ask me, this is one of the most outrageous, hideous secrets of the nursing home industry. Malnutrition and dehydration are preventable forms of nursing home abuse that directly result from a nursing home corporation’s conscious financial decision-making.
Dysphagia, Choking and Aspiration Pneumonia
Dysphagia is the medical term for a condition that causes difficulty swallowing. It is frequently seen with residents who possess a neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke or multiple sclerosis. Other causes may include complications from surgery or the existence of a tumor. Dysphagia is often not properly assessed in the nursing home environment, and even when it is, often times the appropriate measures are not taken to ensure that the resident is protected from harm. Residents with dysphagia require assistance with eating. These patients may also require a specialized diet or the mechanical alternation of their food. In other words, the presence of dysphagia may require that all food be pureed before it is given to the resident to consume in order to minimize a choking hazard. Other residents may require one to one feeding assistance at every meal. Once again, the problems arise from understaffing the nursing home.
Nursing homes routinely fail to properly assess, intervene and implement necessary precautions to protect residents who suffer from dysphagia. They also frequently fail to have enough staff on hand to assist each resident who requires some assistance or supervision during meal times. These failures can lead to severe harm and even death. A resident who chokes and aspirates food contents may develop aspiration pneumonia. This is a truly awful way to die and one of the most insidious forms of nursing home abuse.
Medication Errors and Misuse
Medications should never be used by an understaffed nursing home or assisted living facility in order to alter the supervision needs of its residents. Nursing homes also have a duty to ensure that their residents are receiving all medications as ordered by their physicians. Medication misuse and errors is a leading cause of falls, bowel obstructions, weight loss, chronic pain and death in nursing homes. Is your loved one receiving their pain medication? If pain persists despite the nursing home advising that all pain meds have been administered, there is a good chance that staff is signing out and pocketing the pills for their own use or sale.
Scabies and Other Pests
Scabies outbreaks are common in the nursing home environment. Scabies are tiny, hairy mites with long tentacles that burrow beneath the skin, lay eggs, defecate and then die. Their offspring hatch, and the life-cycle repeats itself until treatments are finally administered and kill off these disgusting pests. Their presence is usually confirmed by a pervasive itch and bright red rash. Scabies frequently arise and spread in long term care facilities where the institution fails to have an adequate infection control program. Nursing home workers spread the scabies from one room and one resident to another.
Physical and Sexual Abuse
Physical and sexual abuse may be committed by either facility staff or other residents. The failure to properly screen, hire, monitor, supervise and train employees as well as the failure to oversee and respond to residents who display inappropriate behaviors toward others are the leading causes of this form of harm. If you suspect that any form of physical or sexual abuse has occurred, it is important to immediately call local law enforcement and obtain a prompt medical evaluation of the affected individual.
Infections and Pneumonia
Nursing homes make money by filling their beds and keeping them filled. We frequently see a great reluctance in sending a resident to the hospital for emergent medical care when the need arises. The family often has to fight to have their loved one transferred or call 911 on their own. The signs and symptoms of infection are often overlooked or ignored by the nursing home staff, particularly where the resident is already taking antibiotics. Prolonged antibiotic use can open the intestinal tract up for infection by C-diff or clostridium difficile – a bacteria that leads to infectious diarrhea and volume depletion, that is not treated promptly may result in a significant health decline and death.
Residents who are left lying in bed for long stretches of time are also more susceptible to the development of pneumonia and respiratory tract infections. Surgical wounds may become infected with pathogens such as MRSA, VRE and other bacteria based on a staff member’s failure to follow proper sterile technique and wash their hands in between patients.
Falls, Trauma and Fractured Bones
The failure to adequately assist residents with their activities of daily living substantially increases the likelihood that the resident will fall and suffer injury at some point in time. While every fall is not preventable, the failure of a nursing home or assisted living facility to properly assess fall risk, care plan and implement nursing interventions designed to reduce the risk of falls constitutes a violation of resident rights under Florida law. Studies confirm that hip fractures and traumatic brain injury from falls are leading causes of death of elderly residents in nursing homes.
Many residents are dependent upon staff to receive proper nutrition and medication to reduce the risk of developing a bowel obstruction. A failure in this regard by nursing home staff can be life threatening to the resident and lead to a terrible death.
Catheter Injuries and Renal Failure
The failure to properly insert, monitor and maintain a resident’s catheter in a nursing home can lead to serious and painful injuries, including renal failure and death. Blockages are often overlooked and ignored, leading to kidney failure. Urinary tract infections are common complications arising from the neglect of catheter care. Traumatic catheterization can be excruciating painful and lead to significant harm.
Undiagnosed Medical Emergencies
The signs and symptoms of stroke and heart attack often go undetected in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The results can be fatal. There are simply too few nurses and poor training to carefully watch out for each and every resident in most facilities. This truth, coupled with the fact that many nursing home corporations would really rather keep the bed filled and not send someone out to the hospital to be checked out, often leads to unexplained and mysterious deaths which the nursing home aggressively attempts to sweep under the rug.
Wandering and Elopement
Residents who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have the tendency to wander. If permitted to do so, they will walk right out of the nursing home or assisted living facility into harm’s way.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and if you believe that a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse and neglect, please feel free to call me, nursing home abuse lawyer, James Keim, for a free, confidential consultation at (941) 426-7900. All cases are handled on a contingency fee and cost basis. Fees and any costs are simply deducted from a recovery, if a recovery is made through settlement, verdict or award. I have represented people and families in Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, North Port, and Englewood for the past twenty years. Nursing home abuse is a problem that can only be solved by forcing the industry to change its unlawful and deadly practices.
I have attained the highest possible rating through the Martindale-Hubbell peer review certification process. AV®, AV Preeminent® are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell® certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.
Local Nursing Homes, Consulate Health Care of Port Charlotte, Consulate Health Care of North Fort Myers, Coral Trace Health Care, Douglas Jacobson State Veterans Nursing Home, Englewood Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, Harbour Health Center, Life Care Center of Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte Rehabilitation Center, Signature Healthcare of Port Charlotte, Solaris Healthcare Charlotte Harbor, Village Place Health and Rehabilitation Center, Quality Health of North Port, Local Assisted Living Facilities, Brookdale Port Charlotte, Brookdale Punta Gorda Isles, Brookdale Rotonda, Chelsea Place Retirement Living LLC, The Courtyard Assisted Living, Haborview Acres Inc, Harbour Terrace, Kimberly Place, Lexington Manor Assisted Living, Liz’s Adult Care Garden Home Facility, Palms of Punta Gorda, Royal Palm Retirement Centre, Sandhill Gardens Retirement Center, Vick Street Manor, Village Place Retirement, Young at Heart Adult Care Center, Inc, Gardens of North Port, Joy of Living II Inc, La Belle La Vie LLC, North Port Retirement Center, The Springs at South Biscayne
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